Teach your children to bake like a pro pastry chef over spring break
Spring break is almost here. If you have school-aged children or grandchildren, you've probably been thinking about how you'll keep them busy. Some people have booked family trips, while others have planned one-week springtime camp sessions. But for most of us, I suspect, the week winds up being a day-to-day thing, with play dates, trips to movies or museums and other one-off activities to pass the time.
With that in mind, let me suggest a perfect activity for grown-ups and kids to share; one that will yield dividends everyone can enjoy all week long and then even go on enjoying on Easter. Of course, I'm talking about baking cookies.
But not just any cookies! I'd like to share a recipe that yields some of the best chocolate chunk cookies I've ever tasted, recently dreamed up by my pastry team to serve at this year's Governors Ball following the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 24.
Since the cookies were developed and prepared in a professional kitchen, I thought I would share the recipe in a format similar to what the pros use when baking: All of the measurements here are metric. There's a good reason for that. Though there is often artistry in the way baked goods are presented, pastry making is also a science, in which precision is essential to produce the ideal results. And the metric system helps make that possible. Why? Because all of the ingredients are weighed right down to the last gram; and with 28.35 grams in 1 ounce, the metric system yields much more precise results than our old imperial measurements.
How do you measure that way in an American kitchen? Fortunately, countertop digital metric scales are relatively inexpensive today and can be found easily in well-stocked kitchen stores or online. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for use, practice measuring with a few ingredients, and you'll have the hang of it in no time.
While you're shopping for your scale, also look for the highest-quality chocolate for these cookies. I like the Jivara variety of milk chocolate from Valrhona, which contains 40 percent cacao solids and tastes less sweet but more chocolaty. The recipe also includes caramelized pecans that you'll find easy to make; all the easier if you prepare them in a bigger batch than you'll need just for the cookies. The rest will store well in an airtight container, to be used in a future cookie batch, sprinkled over ice cream or enjoyed as a snack.
So there you have it: A cookie recipe that does it all, offering delicious results from a fun yet educational spring break activity that also provides dividends for your holiday dessert table!
MILK CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES WITH CARAMELIZED PECANS
Makes about 6 dozen cookies
266 grams (about 2 sticks plus 2 3/4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes